Now Playing. The Guilty, The Many Saints of Newark… | by Matthew Fox | Midday Musings | Oct, 2021

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The Guilty, The Many Saints of Newark, Queenpins, The Starling, Tethered, Venom: Let There Be Carnage

Matthew Fox

Here’s a look at the new movies I saw this week.

The Guilty (Netflix)
Starring:
Jake Gyllenhaal
Synopsis: This new drama comes from director Antione Fuqua and stars Gyllenhaal as a cop who’s facing discipline over a shooting and, for the time being, has been demoted to 9–1–1 dispatcher. On the night before his court appearance he’s taking calls and, mostly, offering little help. When he gets a call from a young woman who says she’s been abducted, it gets to him in the most emotional way. Throughout the rest of his shift, and into the wee hours of the morning after, he fights to save her but the circumstances take a dark turn, forcing Joe Baylor (Gyllenhaal) to take a hard look at his own life. This film, based on the Danish film of the same name, works on a script crafted by True Detective scribe Nic Pizzolatto. Gyllenhaal gives an incredible performance as Fuqua builds the tension and creates a gripping and emotional story. This was better than expected and a gem for the Netflix catalog.
Rating: Rated R for language throughout.
Verdict: Three stars out of four

The Many Saints of Newark (Theaters/HBO Max)
Starring:
Alessandro Nivola, Jon Bernthal, Leslie Odom, Jr., Corey Stoll, Ray Liotta, Verga Farmiga, and Michael Gandolfini
Synopsis: Once upon a time HBO built its brand on a unique blend of original series. The first big drama series in that archive was The Sopranos, created by David Chase and starring James Gandolfini. The series debuted in 1999 and ran six seasons, producing 86 episodes before signing off in 2007. Now, more than a decade later, Chase is back with a prequel that looks at a young Tony Soprano, this time played by Gandolfini’s son, Michael. This one, however, is mostly a story of his uncle, Dickie Moltisanti (Nivola), and their relationship. It begins in the late 1960s and carries through the beginning of the 1970s. It follows the criminal empire and goes through the family dealings and racial tensions that marked the era of Newark. It is billed as a prequel, a story that showcases the making of Tony Soprano. However the film doesn’t play out that way. Alan Taylor offers nice direction and the performances are solid, but this feels like an idea that should have been a series or a mini-series and was instead squeezed into a two-hour film. It’s OK, but not great and doesn’t really fill in that much of how Tony rose to power. Maybe that’s a story for another prequel.
Rating: Rated R for strong violence, pervasive language, sexual content and some nudity.
Verdict: Two stars out of four

Queenpins (Theaters/Paramount+)
Starring
: Kristen Bell, Vince Vaughn, Paul Walter Hauser, and Kirby Howell-Baptiste
Synopsis: This film is based on a true story, centering on two Arizona women (Bell and Howell-Baptiste) who are down on their luck when they stumble upon a business idea. They begin hawking fake coupons, making millions of dollars while attracting the attention of a zealous loss prevention employee (Hauser) from a grocery store chain and a dedicated Postal Inspector (Vaughn). This one is a fun and original story, one that packs plenty of humor. I loved Bell and Howell-Baptiste, who had a fun on screen chemistry. Vaughn is great in this too, but the MVP might be Hauser. He delivers one of the funniest scenes of the year while on stakeout in this film. I enjoyed the ride here. This is a comedy worth checking out.
Rating: Rated R for language throughout.
Verdict: Three stars out of four

The Starling (Netflix)
Starring:
Melissa McCarthy, Chris O’Dowd, Kevin Kline, and Timothy Olyphant
Synopsis: This film features McCarthy and O’Dowd as a couple grieving the loss of their baby. They have different means of tackling this painful time in their lives. Jack (O’Dowd) had a breakdown and is in treatment, while Lilly (McCarthy) is trying to struggle forward. When a menacing bird takes up residence in her yard, it pushes Lilly to a breaking point and a moment of revelation. McCarthy, and in fact most of this cast, are known for their comedic chops. But lately the actress has tried to stretch herself with more serious and dramatic roles. This is an interesting idea and director Theodore Melfi does a nice job with Matt Harris’ script. McCarthy and O’Dowd give nice performances but overall the film is a little dry and a little stiff at times. It’s OK but fails to rise to the level of great.
Rating: Rated PG-13 for thematic material, some strong language, and suggestive material.
Verdict: Two stars out of four

Tethered (VOD)
Starring:
Caroline Harris and Joshua Kwak
Synopsis: The nature of time and reality have been the basis for a number of stories through the years. The film Tethered, from writer/director Greg Furuoka explores an aspect of that same concept. It begins with a mystery and ends up unfolding in some surprising ways. The film centers on a pair of detectives, Sam (Caroline Harris) and Keller (Joshua Kwak) who are investigating a case that takes them to the forest. While there, Keller disappears. Haunted, Sam struggles to find a way forward. She’s racked by grief and determined to get to the bottom of what really happened to her partner. That leads Sam on a journey that uncovers the connection that spot in the forest has to a fracture in time that threatens her reality. It sucks Sam down a rabbit hole that changes her understanding of what is real. This film has lofty ideas but they don’t quite come together in this film. I was curious to see where it would go but the last act sort of crumbles under the weight of these aspirations. I’m not sure what Furuoka wants us to take from the narrative and at the end I found myself more confused than entertained. Overall, it’s not a particularly dynamic film. Despite that, I enjoyed the basic ide and thought Harris did some nice work in the central role. The issue was the confusing nature of the overall story and what felt like under-developed characters and relationships. When the climax comes the groundwork hasn’t been laid well enough for you to invest in what’s happening and what it means for Sam. Overall Tethered was an interesting swing that doesn’t come together.
Rating: NA
Verdict: One star out of four

Venom: Let There Be Carnage (Theaters)
Starring:
Tom Hardy, Woody Harrelson, Naomi Harris, Michelle Williams, and Stephen Graham
Synopsis: In 2018, Sony sought to expand its foothold in the Marvel Universe with the spin-off Venom, which focused on reporter Eddie Brock (Hardy) who forms a partnership with a symbiotic alien that gives him powers and some scary visuals. In this sequel, Brock is continuing to learn how to live with Venom, while having to deal with a deranged serial killer (Harrelson) who has a symbiotic alien of his own. This one is a sequel that moves at a crisp pace, builds on the characters and world and improves on the action sequences. Hardy does a great job in this role and I enjoyed the action and the comedic moments. This isn’t an incredible superhero film but it’s a fun one that offers a fun tie-in to the expanded world of Marvel.
Rating: Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some strong language, disturbing material and suggestive references.
Verdict: Two stars out of four

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